ADA case involving SFPD allowed to go back to lower court for decision 

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left a lower court to decide whether two San Francisco police officers violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when they entered a mentally ill woman’s bedroom and shot her as she attacked them with a knife in 2008.

The court did find the two officers were immune from liability under the Fourth Amendment for entering Teresa Sheehan’s bedroom.

In the 6-2 decision released Monday morning, the high court granted the two officers qualified immunity on claims they violated the Fourth Amendment when they entered the room, but declined to rule on whether the officers failed to provide reasonable accommodations for the woman’s disability under the ADA.

Christine Van Aken, an attorney with the City Attorney’s Office, said The City was gratified with the court’s ruling that the officers were not personally liable for any potential violations of Sheehan’s constitutional rights. But regarding the court’s decision not to rule on the ADA question, she said, “We’re disappointed about that, but we’re prepared to defend the case going forward.”

Sheehan survived the Aug. 7, 2008, shooting and filed a federal civil rights suit the next year. The suit was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it, finding that the ADA applies to arrests.

The high court ruling appears to allow Sheehan to take her case back to a lower court for a trial on the claim that the officers violated the ADA by not adequately taking her illness into account.

Sheehan’s attorney John Burris called the ruling “bittersweet,” saying that the ADA portion of the case is intact and he expects it will be coming back to a jury trial.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who is the brother of Charles Breyer, recused himself from participating in the case.

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